Name: Justin De Fratus
DOB: 10/21/87 (24 as of April 1, 2012)
Weight: 217 lbs
Acquired: 11th round, 2007 (undisclosed bonus)
Pre Draft Report: Baseball America ranked Justin De Fratus the 41st best prospect in California leading up to the 2007 draft. De Fratus came out of a Ventura (CA) JuCo program that produced big leaguers “Babbling” Brook Jacoby and Noah Lowry. This is what BA had to say about De Fratus:
Ventura’s Justin DeFratus had the highest Scouting Bureau number of any California juco player for much of the spring. The 6-foot-4 DeFratus tops out at 94 mph but loses velocity early in games (at times up to 7-10 mph within three innings) and was working on a long-toss program during the season to increase his durability and arm strength. At times his slider also is a plus pitch, and he shows a feel for changing speeds.
De Fratus signed within a week of being drafted and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League to begin his career.
Career Synopsis: De Fratus began his career with the Gulf Coast League Phils and his quick signing allowed him to log 10 games (8 starts) in his first pro season. His 4.30 ERA belied his peripherals which included a 34/3 K/BB ratio and just one HR allowed in 46 IP.
In 2008, De Fratus was held back in extended spring training before heading to Williamsport. Pitching exclusively as a starter, De Fratus pitched 83 effective innings with a 3.67 ERA. He held opponents to a .260 average, striking out 74 and walking 25. He once again was outstanding at keeping the ball in the park, allowing just a single HR on the season.
Entering his third season, De Fratus has yet to hit the radar of the majority of prospect sites. He spent the majority of the year in Lakewood’s bullpen before moving to the rotation and making 12 starts before his season ended prematurely due to an oblique strain. He ended the season having pitched 110 innings, with a stupendous 101/16 K/BB ratio and just three home runs allowed.
Heading into 2010, De Fratus finally began to show up in various prospect ranking lists, as BA had him at #29 and John Sickels had him at #17. Both sources hinted at his future being in the pen as he was primarily a fastball-slider pitched and he tended to lose something off his fastball as games progressed. BA also tagged his as the Best Control in the system. De Fratus started 2010 in Clearwater’s bullpen and pitched in 29 games (including 15 saves) before moving to Reading. Across the two stops, he pitched 65 innings, posting a 1.94 ERA, striking out 71, walking 16, and allowing just 3 homers. Following the season, he pitched for the U.S. in the PanAm Qualifiers, then in the Arizona Fall League where he pitched seven scoreless innings and was named to the Rising Stars Game.
De Fratus began 2011 in Reading’s bullpen as its nominal closer. While he walked batters at the highest rate of his career (3.7), the rest of his numbers were spectacular. He pitched to a 2.10 ERA on the strength of 7.3 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, and 11.3 K/9. Opponents hit just .224 against him, and he threw more than twice as many groundballs than flyballs. He moved to Lehigh Valley in June and pitched 41 innings for the Iron Pigs. He struck out more batters and walked fewer and generally pitched in line with his AA numbers, although his HR rate more than doubled (albeit in a small sample size).
De Fratus ended 2011 making five big league appearances. Heading into 2012, BA has him ranked #7 among Phillies prospects, while John Sickels ranked him #6.
Scouting Report: Below is an assessment of De Fratus’ raw tools, rated on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale. The grades are my estimation based on what I’ve read and those I’ve talked to. The second number is a future projection, the first number is the current assessment
Upside: De Fratus has joined Phillippe Aumont at the top of the Phils’ reliever prospect list. His fastball is in the mid-90s, and he tends to keep it down. His slider is a plus-pitch, and his changeup is decent. He’s thrown 380 minor league innings, and has struck out a batter an inning while allowing less than a hit an inning. His walks ticked up a bit last year, but he’s still at roughly 4.5 K/BB for his career. De Fratus is close to being a finished product and could be in the mix for a big league roster spot to start the year. If not, he’ll be in Lehigh Valley and one of the first call-ups when injuries strike. The signing of Papelbon silences the talk of him being a closer, but given his stuff and reports on his makeup, it’s likely that DeFratus starts pitching high leverage innings in Philadelphia as soon as 2012.
Updated: 3 January 2012